Wheelchair accessible destinations to visit this fall

Aug 29, 2021

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The fun doesn’t have to stop just because summer is nearing its end. Just hearing that sentence can put some of us beach lovers into a tailspin.

Fall is actually the perfect time to visit some awesome wheelchair accessible destinations that are complete with a plethora of things to do and fall foliage to set the scene just right. So, grab your pumpkin spice latte because here are five accessible destinations that you must visit this fall.

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Burlington, VT

Burlington is just south of the Canadian border and is the largest city in Vermont. It sits on the eastern shoreline of Lake Champlain, which divides Vermont from New York. This accessible city boasts many eclectic boutiques, local shops, and too many restaurants to count.

But what really makes this the perfect fall destination are the many apple orchards. Who can think of fall without dreaming of a nice warm cup of apple cider? Certainly not me! Here, at Shelburne Orchards, you can stay in your vehicle and drive to the apple trees. Once there, you can pick your own apples. You will have several options of bag sizes to purchase and fill your bag yourself. There is also a little shop on site with the most delicious apple cider donuts that you can imagine, fresh cider, and apples already picked for you.

Related: These are the most wheelchair-accessible cities around the world

Also, in Burlington you will find the world’s first public universally accessible community treehouse. You can walk/roll along the slightly elevated ramp all the way until you go inside the treehouse. Here, you can view the shoreline of Lake Champlain and the views are simply amazing. You can see all the fall colors from there while being amongst the treetops.

While you are in Vermont enjoying the sights and the fall foliage, get active with Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports. They have custom hand cycles that are oversized adaptive mountain bikes. These will allow you to be able to get outside and enjoy fall while getting a workout all at the same time.

Marquette, MI

Marquette is the largest city in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan and is such a cute, quaint town along Lake Superior. You will be able to enjoy delicious dining, unique shopping, and a plethora of outdoor adventures.

You cannot miss the fall viewing sight from Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook. This is a 1-mile-long hard packed trail that leads you through the woods to an amazing viewpoint of Lake Superior. The trail is wheelchair accessible and gets a bit steep in a few spots, but I had no trouble at all in my powered wheelchair. Along the trail, there is also interpretive signage explaining the plants, trees, and fantastic views that are before you.

Related: 7 of the best national parks for wheelchair users

After viewing the changing of the leaves, enjoy a spectacular viewing of the sunset at Presque Isle Park. This is a 323-acre public park that can be enjoyed from a paved park loop that carries you along 2.2 miles. This oval shaped peninsula reaches out into Lake Superior. It is home to a breathtaking photo op of the Michigan sunset at Sunset Point.

If you really want to explore the fall colors, then take a leap on over to the 47-mile paved hiking and biking path called the Iron Ore Heritage Trail. This pathway is easily wheelchair accessible and runs along several former railroads that were built to carry the iron ore from the mines to Lake Superior harbor. Trust me, this is a long trail so make sure if you are in a powered chair that your battery is fully charged so that you can see as much as possible.

Adirondack Mountains, NY

The Adirondack Mountain Region is absolutely gorgeous year-round, but let’s face it, the colors of the fall foliage in this area are simply stunning. To make the most of your viewing pleasure, you can fly into Albany and rent a fully wheelchair accessible van from Mobility Works. This will allow you to see the views at your own pace up close and personal through the scenic windy roads.

For your first full day here, head on over to The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY. This 115-acre experience is the perfect way to connect with nature and is a natural history museum like no other. The most unique thing that I love about this extraordinary area is the Wild Walk. It is a fully wheelchair accessible trail of bridges that leads you to the treetops of the Adirondacks. The view from the Wild Walk is breathtaking and to be here in this spot in the fall is even more reason to plan your trip today!

We can’t talk about enjoying fall in the Adirondacks without mentioning International Paper John Dillon Park. This is a fully accessible camping and fishing area complete with accessible trails, lean-to’s, and restrooms. As you roll along the accessible hiking trails, you can smell the campfires amongst the lean-to’s and get in touch with nature.

Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains have one of the longest fall color seasons in the world. And what better way to see the colors than via an accessible train ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway?! Starting at the historic depot in downtown Blue Ridge, GA, this is a 4-hour, 26 mile round trip journey along the Toccoa River and winds through the North Georgia countryside.

(Photo by jaredkay/Getty Images)

The wheelchair accessible train car has an electric lift that brings you right onto an open-air train car. From here, you can see the views of all the fall colors of the Blue Ridge Mountains without even having to leave your seat. After a one-hour trip to the quiet little towns of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN, which share the state line, you can get out and shop around for a two-hour layover. While here, you can shop in unique shops, eat ice cream, or grab a quick bite to eat before boarding the train again. Once back on the train, you will then return through the one hour viewing journey of the scenic forest.

Related: 10 scenic train rides that are perfect for US leaf peeping

Another great reason to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains in the fall is the Biltmore Estate. Named America’s largest home, the Biltmore Estate is located in Asheville, North Carolina. It was once owned by Edith and George Vanderbilt and today, this luxurious home is open to visitors so that they can enjoy this 8,000-acre estate. Here, you will also find a winery and gardens that are jaw dropping in size and grandeur. The first and second floors of the home are wheelchair accessible, while the third floor and basement are not. But the Biltmore Estate has made sure that everyone can see it all by offering a video of the rooms that are unable to be accessed. You certainly won’t roll away from here without seeing it all. Another bonus is that the parking lots offer ADA shuttle service to the front door.

Great Smoky Mountains

Another one of the great fall foliage viewing areas is the Great Smoky Mountains. This mountain range rises along the North Carolina and Tennessee border in the southeastern United States.

The very highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains is Clingman’s Dome. This peak is at a height of 6,643 feet and from here you can see more than 100 miles of fall foliage on a clear day. There is a fully paved, but steep trail that is a half mile in length to reach Clingman’s Dome. Another bonus of this spectacular viewing point is that it is free to enter!

Related: A beginner’s guide to visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Another way to emerge yourself into the vibrance of the colors of the Great Smoky Mountains is to roll on Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail. This trail is fully paved, flat, and completely wheelchair accessible. It is an easy roll through the trees beside a babbling river and is located near Gatlinburg, TN. I can hear the water trickling over the rocks now and smell the nice, crisp fall air just by thinking about it.

While you are in this area, you do not want to miss Cades Cove as well. Cades Cove is a 4,000-acre valley located near Townsend, TN in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. You can drive throughout the cove on a paved road though a loop route of fields, wildlife, and preserved homesteads. And if you keep your eyes open, you may even sight an occasional bear!

Photo by Naphat Photography/Getty Images

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